Picky/fussy eating in children: Review of definitions, assessment, prevalence and dietary intakes

Appetite. 2015 Dec:95:349-59. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.07.026. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Picky eating (also known as fussy, faddy or choosy eating) is usually classified as part of a spectrum of feeding difficulties. It is characterised by an unwillingness to eat familiar foods or to try new foods, as well as strong food preferences. The consequences may include poor dietary variety during early childhood. This, in turn, can lead to concern about the nutrient composition of the diet and thus possible adverse health-related outcomes. There is no single widely accepted definition of picky eating, and therefore there is little consensus on an appropriate assessment measure and a wide range of estimates of prevalence. In this review we first examine common definitions of picky eating used in research studies, and identify the methods that have been used to assess picky eating. These methods include the use of subscales in validated questionnaires, such as the Children's Eating Behaviour Questionnaire and the Child Feeding Questionnaire as well as study-specific question(s). Second, we review data on the prevalence of picky eating in published studies. For comparison we present prevalence data from the UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in children at four time points (24, 38, 54 and 65 months of age) using a study-specific question. Finally, published data on the effects of picky eating on dietary intakes (both variety and nutrient composition) are reviewed, and the need for more health-related data and longitudinal data is discussed.

Keywords: ALSPAC; Child; Choosy eating; Diet; Eating behaviour; Faddy eating; Feeding difficulties; Feeding problems; Fussy eating; Picky eating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Diet*
  • Eating*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Personality*